The Intensive Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP)
The Intensive Trial Advocacy Program (ITAP) is a cornerstone of Cardozo's practical skills curriculum. In this two week immersion course held each January, students learn cutting-edge strategies for courtroom litigation under the instruction of leading jurists and lawyers from across the country.
In a "master class" approach to learning, students practice direct and cross examinations, interviewing and preparing witnesses, selecting juries, dealing with evidentiary issues and preparing for and presenting bench and jury trials. The course ends with students conducting a full jury trial.
At every step, students are critiqued by judges and lawyers, including individual reviews of student performances on video. The course is taught in small groups to give students direct feedback on their performance from judges and to allow each student to develop confidence in the various roles of being a trial lawyer.
The Benedict Morelli Trial Team
The Morelli Trial team was established in 2016 through a $1 million gift from Arlene and Benedict Morelli, the former president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association and founding partner of the firm bearing his name. In addition to supporting the trial team, the gift from the Morellis provides scholarships for students and established the Learning from the Masters Lecture Series.
Students competing on the Morelli Trial Team prepare a full trial, including opening and closing statements and cross examinations, and compete against other schools nationwide.
The Bet Tzedek Legal Services Clinic
An 85-year-old woman faced forced placement in a nursing home because Medicaid would no longer provide the home-care services that made it possible for her to remain in her home of 45 years.
A 78-year-old man was charged more then $40,000 for critical surgery because his Medicare HMO had not informed him of the procedures necessary to have that care covered by his HMO.
A young man with AIDS was threatened with eviction by his landlord, who claimed he was not a tenant, even though she had accepted rent from him and AIDS Services that was double the legal rent for a rundown studio apartment.
In each of these cases, students of the Bet Tzedek Legal Services Clinic were successful in protecting the interests of their clients and regaining for them their health benefits and/or homes. Each year, Bet Tzedek—which means “House of Justice” in Hebrew—represents dozens of elderly and disabled people seeking health, disability and housing benefits that they could not get without Clinic assistance.
In representing these individual clients, the student lawyers also identify systemic problems affecting thousands of similarly situated people. Often, the result is a class action lawsuit to correct these problems. As a result of Bet Tzedek class actions, thousands of New Yorkers are protected from arbitrary reductions in their home-care services; the Social Security Administration has changed its restrictive policies for determining when HIV-positive individuals are eligible for benefits; hundreds of disabled applicants for public housing are protected from the public housing authority's intrusion into their confidential medical records.
The Clinic operates with 25 students and 3 full-time faculty, with a case load of more than 200 clients. Clients are referred by agencies and courts that are familiar with the reputation of the Clinic and its faculty, Professors Leslie Salzman and Rebekah Diller—respected litigators and educators in the fields of elder, disability, health and housing law. Supervised by the Clinic faculty, students have primary responsibility to interview clients and potential witnesses; investigate the facts; develop legal theories based on extensive legal research; draft pleadings, motions and briefs; argue motions; conduct hearings and trials before administrative agencies in state and federal courts; negotiate settlements; and counsel clients.
In a required, year-long seminar on social welfare litigation theory and practice, students learn the skills and substantive law that they use in representing Clinic clients, and also address the ethical issues facing them as advocates.